An alternate version of a Sensory Immersion Machine story first posted on Protagonize nearly a year ago.
An alternate continuation of a Sensory Immersion Machine Story
Chapter Three - News from another world
Over the next three weeks, Katie-Anne started eating lunch with me every day. Once she decided she could confide in me, her confidence was continuous and without limit. I learned about her mother’s presidency, about the program she had been enrolled in to prevent SIM addiction in teens, and about how her failure in that program had cost her mother the last election. She talked at length about her time in a sim called Terrasend and the people she met there. The standard lockouts on Free People’s nets prevented any direct connection with the simnets, so Katie-Anne hadn’t had any firsthand communication with her friends in Terrasend in four years. She had, however, managed limited access to several forums about the sim where she could keep track of its goings-on.
She hauled out her notebook at lunch to show me her crowning achievement.
“This is a research forum from the University of Liberal Arts at San Diego. What no one is supposed to know is that a whole wing of their Dramatics and Theatrics department is part of the development team for Terrasend.”
“A public school under the employ of a commercial sim developer?” I asked.
“They’re calling it a long-term research project. The school gets a practical way to train actors and writers and Hallisco, Terrasend’s developer, gets a pool of players who are there just for the sake of keeping things interesting.”
I knew some people who felt that was their job in real life—Cheryl came to mind. I wondered what she might be like if she’d had some training in the field.
“The thing is,” Katie-Anne continued, “for it to be considered a research project, there has to be considerable documentation on the part of the developers, the professors and the students. They’re organizing it all on these forums and since it’s an academic endeavor on an academic site, I have free access to it from here.”
I glanced over the forums and had to admit that it was a clever way to stay connected with the sim, considering all the restrictions on the Free People’s nets. There was a lot of information on it too, with almost all of it updated within the last day. Then something caught my eye.
“You get a lot of private messages?”
She smiled at the screen as she saw that she did have a new private message waiting for her. She turned the notebook so I couldn’t see the screen and answered me while looking at it. “Not many. It’s not like I can tell them who I am or ask them to spy on my friends for me. But there is one guy. He goes by Diryn. I think he’s a dev since he contacted me right after I got yanked four years ago and if he were a student, he would have graduated. His posts on the boards are always about mundane programming stuff, but every once in awhile, he writes me with an update on Jaime.”
She looked at me then, just briefly, but worried. Like she was afraid I would react to the name Jaime. It wasn’t the first time she’d done that and I was starting to wonder what Jaime was supposed to mean to me. She went back to reading her message and talking to me. It was really remarkable multi-tasking.
“I haven’t heard anything about Jaime in awhile, actually. He went on a leave from the sim eight months ago and didn’t tell anyone where he was going. He lives in the sims,” she added. “He has for most of his life. It was just weird for him to up and disappear like that. It says here the startup group—that’s what the devs call my friends—got a message from him, and…” she paused, focusing on what she was reading.
When she finished reading, she read it again, and then just sort of stared at the screen. Finally, she closed her notebook and looked at me, “You have a car, right?”